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Andretti Will Connect with Danica This Season

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 3 2009

Danica Patrick will have team-owner Michael Andretti in her ear during races this season. Photo courtesy of IRL

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Reluctantly, Michael Andretti has added another job title to his IndyCar Series to-do list.

The co-owner of Andretti Green Racing and promoter of two Indy Racing League events, Andretti will serve as the radio “conscience” of Danica Patrick in 2009, calling race-day strategy for arguably the series’ most recognizable star.

The switch is one of several subtle offseason moves at Andretti Green Racing as its four-car juggernaut prepares for the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 5.

“I really needed another job like a hole in the head,” Andretti said, “but I’m excited about the challenge. The team as a whole just felt that I would be able to help Danica. She seems to respond to me in a lot of ways, and we felt that I might be able to use some of my experience to help her.”

The switch will see Kyle Moyer calling strategy for Marco Andretti, Michael’s son, who also has been paired with veteran engineer Peter Gibbons. Eddie Jones moves from Marco’s No. 26 Meijer Dallara/Honda to engineer Danica’s No. 7 Motorola car.

Michael Andretti joked that he had “caved to peer pressure” in accepting his latest role at AGR, the winningest team in IndyCar Series history with 34 victories. All four AGR drivers – Danica, Marco, Tony Kanaan and Hideki Mutoh – return this season, the first time that’s happened since 2005.

And all four are packing momentum, considering each logged top-10 points finishes in ’08.

Patrick placed sixth in points last season, highlighted by her historic first career victory at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. Marco Andretti ranked seventh in points in 2008 and bagged his first career pole at The Milwaukee Mile.

Native Brazilian and team leader Kanaan, the 2004 series champion and driver of the No. 11 7-Eleven car, won one race en route to a third-place finish last year. And Mutoh, of Japan, placed 10th in points while earning Bombardier Learjet IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors in AGR’s No. 27 Panasonic/Formula Dream entry.

Previously, Michael Andretti – who retired as the winningest driver in Championship Auto Racing Teams history with 42 victories – spent race day monitoring all of his drivers.

“I always said I didn’t want to do it (focus on one driver) because I just liked being able to watch for all four cars,” Andretti said. “But we felt with the moves we were making…we had one empty area that we needed to fix. After talking it out and everything I couldn’t argue with the logic of the reasons to do it, and I really do believe I can help her.

“I think one thing about Danica is she’s always really responded to – whenever I’ve said you should try this, try that – she’s gone out and done it and was able to do it. If I’m in it more, just every session, just focused on her, I think that maybe I can help her that much more. So that’s what happened.”

Marco Andretti believes the collaboration will benefit both his dad and teammate.

“It’s the first time he actually is going to speak on the radio, so it’s big for him,” Marco said. “I think it’s good for Danica, as well, because there’s been times where dad sees the race unfolding and just doesn’t have the final – well, he has the final call but sometimes you have to make the decision too quickly and it’s already too late. So I think it’s going to be great for him.”

Rhetorically, Michael Andretti asked if he really wanted one more chore to-do.

“Not really, but I’m always here,” Andretti said. “I think it’s going to be something new and exciting, but it is going to be another job.”

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 3 2009
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